By the time drummer Gavin Harrison formally joined the Pineapple Thief for 2016's Your Wilderness, songwriter Bruce Soord and company had amassed an impressive discography. Harrison had to learn the shelf material while rehearsing for tours or in the moment on-stage; fortunately, playing with the unpredictable Robert Fripp in King Crimson had prepared him for these situations. While sidelined during the COVID-19 pandemic, Soord invited Harrison to go through the entire Pineapple Thief catalog and pick out tunes to revisit. The drummer did, often adding new sections, rearranging old ones, writing additional lyrics, etc. After hearing what he'd done, Soord got inspired. He too went back to the material and "closed" certain songs lyrically; he added new vocals, overdubbed, and stripped things down.
Give It Back contains 12 "rewired" versions of earlier works dating back to 2002's 137 up through 2014's All the Wars (there are a whopping five selections from the latter). Harrison has been reinventing drum parts on tour with the Pineapple Thief for years now. The drummer approached the project as if he were encountering all-new material. The set's overall feel reflects the uncertainty and pathos in our present historical era with empathy, not judgment. Opener "Wretched Soul," from 10 Stories Down, is punched up with loads of new snare breaks and jagged synths. Elsewhere, "Build a World," "Boxing Day," "Someone Pull Me Out," and "Shoot First" reflect and multiply the sense of societal alienation brought on by the post-pandemic global uncertainty about what "normal" is now. Confusion gives way to rage in resplendent, forceful new versions of "137," "Give It Back," and "Warm Seas." While the music and lyrics offer revitalized anger, on balance they also embrace society's collective spiritual, economic, and psychic unease. Elsewhere, despite its familiar alienated lyric, "Start Your Descent" sounds like a new composition, as virtually all of its drum parts were reworked. "Build a World" contains a new front verse that grounds the song's sad narrative in lived experience rather than an expression of future dread. Later, "Boxing Day," already of one the band's darkest, most vulnerable songs, becomes devastating thanks to Soord's grainier, more desperate vocal and Harrison's carefully layered snare accents. "Last Man Standing" is presented with refocused lyrics that take stock of the protagonist's devastation and tragedy, framing them in Rush-esque guitars, majestically stacked choral vocals, and a striated bridge as it transforms into a manifesto of regret.
No songs on Give It Back surrender their original melodies; they remain easily recognizable. The notion of fashioning a new release by re-recording older material is usually a direction artists pursue at the command of a record label or during a prolonged dearth of new material. That is not the case here. These new parts result in a bold new narrative amid warm, organic production and the Pineapple Thief's requisite high-quality musical acumen.